-Dr Singh slams APNU+AFC MPs for attempting to ‘hoodwink’ Guyana
FROM conveniently omitting information to misrepresenting the facts, Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh has called out the APNU+AFC’s Members of Parliament (MPs) for attempting to mislead Guyanese with their “bogus analysis” of the $ 781.9 billion 2023 budget.
In a stinging rebuttal to the opposition MPs’ contributions to the 2023 budget debate over the past five days, the finance minister delivered a chastising presentation as he closed off the debate on Friday evening.
“The nation continues to be regaled by this pathetic display of incompetence, ineptitude and incoherence for the whole of five days,” Dr Singh said as he poured cold water on the Opposition MPs’ presentations.
He rebutted the comments made by Opposition Shadow Public Works and Energy Minister David Patterson on Thursday that the Amaila Falls Hydropower Plant (AFHP) was “still-born” and that it “died from malnutrition.”
Dr Singh reminded the house that it was because of the opposition putting its foot on the neck of the project that international investors were chased away.
The initiative was launched in 2009, but in 2013, it was voted down by APNU+AFC in the National Assembly, forcing its major investor, Sithe Global Incorporated to withdraw.
In 2014, Norway, under its climate partnership with Guyana, transferred some US$80 million to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to fund the project.
When the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) returned to office in August 2020, it expressed its recommitment to the project and went on to propose an energy mix aimed at utilising both natural gas, heavy fuel oil, and renewables such as hydro, wind and solar.
Dr Singh said that even though the project was supported by the PPP/C– since it could bring enormous benefits to the manufacturing sector, including affordable and reliable energy– it was not supported unanimously by all three political parties, a necessary prerequisite to the project receiving international development funds required to complete.
“But apparently that entire history is conveniently forgotten by Mr Patterson, who now comes sir, conveniently forgetting the views expressed by his party… but the records are there,” he said.
DISSERVICE TO THE NATION
According to the finance minister, the opposition did a disservice, since the multibillion-dollar international company Sithe Global Incorporated had pulled out from the project thanks to the lack of support in Parliament
“They [APNU+AFC] decided among themselves that these people didn’t know what they were doing and they were going to block and obstruct this project. Amaila Falls did not happen because of direct obstruction by the APNU+AFC.
“But Mr Patterson has now come, to try to rewrite history. This is in the parliamentary record, it’s in the media. To come to say that APNU+AFC played no role in this at all. Mr. Patterson tried to hoodwink the people of Guyana,” he added.
Citing another lopsided presentation, Dr Singh called out another Opposition MP for playing “fast and loose” with the statistics presented to the house.
“She claimed that a low-income family could not afford a mortgage and she cited a hypothetical mortgage. What the honourable member did not disclose to this house, was that the numbers she used related in fact, not to a 30-year mortgage.
“She perhaps accidentally, perhaps deliberately chose a 10-year mortgage to use for the purposes of calculating the amount of the repayment. I do not know anybody who goes to the bank and takes a 10-year mortgage. Can you imagine them deliberately coming here… and regaling this house with [their] bogus analysis…to mislead the people of Guyana,” the minister said.
He highlighted that for the past five days, he sat and watched as the Opposition MPs cited statistics or references which were “blatantly either distorted or opportunistically selected” and twisted for their own narrative.
He also blasted APNU+AFC MPs for “trotting out” one after the other over the five days to misrepresent the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report.
“They trotted out one after the other… They bandied the fact that the FAO said that 43 per cent of Guyana cannot afford a healthy diet. They kept repeating this thing, you know, for shock value. And of course, none of them actually went to the report. If one is to be intellectually honest with oneself …I know they are incapable of that,” the minister said.
He explained that the Opposition MPs “conveniently omitted” that the FAO also reported that even though the Guyana average is 43 per cent, it is doing better than the Caribbean, which is averaging 16 per cent.
“They conveniently chose to ignore the year to which the data related, the source of the data and the methodology that was used [and] the comparison with the rest of the Caribbean, but they rather conveniently also chose to ignore the rest of the report.
“…They choose to ignore the fact that in many of these other indicators, which are important indicators of food security, Guyana, in fact, outperforms many countries in the Caribbean and Latin America. They were either too lazy to refer to the primary source of the report or [were] deliberately selective in what they wanted to highlight” he underscored.
He also criticised the Opposition for being a “bull in a China shop” for destroying the industries in Guyana.
He pointed out that Opposition MP Volda Lawrence claimed that the PPP/C caused the decline of the bauxite industry.
“They were actively complicit. If not, the instigators who chased an international investor from the Berbice River RUSAL (Executives of Russian Aluminium) thereby putting more than 1,000 persons out of work.
“You can’t claim to love the bauxite workers and insight harassment of an investor who is employing 1,000 people. So, they were charging around like bulls in a China shop. Breaking up everything,” he said.
Against this backdrop, the minister urged the MPs in the House to know their respective competence and to seek out sound advice when needed. He said that this advice is much needed in the opposition, since their presentations lacked consistency.
He said that in one breath, the opposition MPs are talking about the size of the deficit, and expansionary policy and its impact on inflation, and in the next breath, they roll out a long list of policies that involve cutting taxes and spending more and in particular, spending more on government consumption.
“The two don’t go with each other. They don’t go with each other… A lot of them jumped up with no internal consistency in what they were saying,” he said.
Dr Singh lambasted the opposition MPs for using economic terms such as ‘Dutch disease’ in their presentations with no clear understanding of what the disease even involves, or how they can counteract it and minimise risks.
He warned that it could be detrimental, especially to persons watching the live debates who might get an improper understanding of the matter at hand. However, Dr Singh said that Guyanese were reminded of why they decided to place the responsibility of navigating Guyana in the hands of the PPP/C.